What Age Should Your Child Start Music Lessons or Classes?

Kids of all ages learning music in different programs at Merit School of Music

Is my toddler too young to start music classes? Is my teenager too old to take piano lessons? Children can start on violin at age four, but did you know that they need to wait until age nine for trombone? How can parents learn what to do?

The truth is: You are never too young or too old to start making music for the first time. Whether you’re hoping to start your child on a lifelong journey of musical development, or just curious if playing an instrument or singing in a choir will resonate with them, there are endless reasons to sign them up for music lessons or classes today. For instance, music students show better memory, vocabulary, and reading levels over the course of a year, and are more likely to pursue higher education.

Merit School of Music’s wide array of private lessons, group classes and ensembles, summer camps, and Early Childhood classes are a great way for your child to dive into the world of music-making! Merit’s music education experts have put together an easy guide for what music lessons or classes are appropriate for your child, no matter their age. 

Newborns-3 years old
Have a baby or toddler at home? Kids younger than four can take their first steps in music by learning the essential musical building blocks in Early Childhood classes. These playful and developmentally stimulating classes incorporate song, chant, movement exercises, and instrument play to develop a child’s imagination, cognitive and motor skills, musical awareness, and expressiveness.

Early Childhood music class students at Merit with instructor Miro Hernandez

In Merit‘s Early Childhood classes, little ones will gain experience on simple percussion instruments, including the glockenspiel, egg shakers, and rhythm sticks. Once your child reaches age three, they can join one of Merit’s Music Masters 1 classes (open to three through five-year-olds) where they will learn the components of timbre, rhythm, pitch, beat, and style.

4-8 years old

At age four, your child can start private lessons for violin or cello, since they have the finger dexterity to hold a bow. String instruments come in various sizes so students can begin at a young age on a “mini” version of the instrument (up to 1/16 of the full size). We only recommend private lessons for children starting instrument study so young since they’ll need plenty of individual attention. Once they turn six, they can join a group class for violin or cello.

Six-year-olds have more finger and arm strength and focus, so they also have the option of starting piano lessons or classes. Once children are ages seven and older, they can either start or switch to another string instrument, such as viola and upright bass. By age seven, your child can join a choir as they’ll be able to easily read the words of songs and are ready to use a wider vocal range than in earlier years.

In addition, Merit continues to offer Early Childhood classes for ages five through eight, which can continue to set the foundation for a lifetime journey of musical appreciation. Our Ukulele & You class introduces both adults and children to the versatility of the instrument while engaging the whole classroom in songs, games, and exploration. Music Masters 2 classes will teach your child the basics of music theory, note reading, and music composition, preparing them for instrument study. Opting for an introductory music class like this at a young age is a great choice if you’re not sure your child will enjoy playing and practicing an instrument—better to help them build a positive relationship with music making first rather than force them to practice before they’re ready.

Young kids play music during trumpet camp at Merit School of Music

9-11 years old

Starting around age nine, your child can start private lessons or group classes for guitar and band instruments  (bassoon, clarinet, flute, French horn, oboe, percussion, saxophone, trombone, trumpet, and tuba/euphonium). Since wind instruments don’t have “mini” sized versions, it’s best to wait until your child 

has developed the physicality to handle these larger instruments comfortably. At this age, children are able to hold a heavier instrument, have greater lung capacity and finger dexterity, and are also able to focus for longer periods of time. By age nine, most children have grown many “adult” teeth and will be able to better learn embouchure (the use of lips, facial muscles, tongue, and teeth in playing wind instruments) than younger children.

Hand size, arm length, under/overbites, and other factors can help determine which instruments may be best for a student. String players who have been taking lessons and group classes for at least two years may also start playing in our orchestras around this age. Children may also start out on an instrument like piano at age six and then move to a wind or brass instrument later.

12+ years old

It may come as a surprise, but the instrument you’ll need to wait the longest to sign your child up for private lessons for is their voice! While joining a choir is a great beginning from age seven on, more rigorous private voice lessons should wait until your child has gone through puberty when their vocal range and vocal chords have changed along with the rest of their body. Start singing lessons too soon and you risk harming your child’s voice and their longtime enjoyment of singing. 

If your child is 12 years or older, they can start private lessons for any of the above instruments. Many Merit beginning group classes have an age cap of 12 or 13, but they can still begin studying a new instrument solo and eventually join a continuing group class or ensemble after one to two years of experience. In summary, whatever age your child is right now is a great age to start their musical journey. The instrument and type of

Teenage music students learning together during class at Merit School of Music in Chicago

In summary, whatever age your child is right now is a great age to start their musical journey. The instrument and type of instruction (Early Childhood class, private lesson, group class, or ensemble) you choose will depend on their age and a variety of other factors, including physical attributes and interests, but don’t let concerns over finding the “perfect age” to start music lessons discourage you from exploring the power of music-making today.

Read more advice from Merit’s music education experts on how to choose an instrument for your child.

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